By any metric, the 10th annual Assistance League Home & Chef Tour promises to be rewarding for everyone involved.
For the architecturally inclined, a $30 ticket buys the opportunity to tour six of the area’s loveliest properties. The culinary-minded have the chance to sample the fare of fine local restaurants. The homeowners and the chefs get to show off their wares.
And most importantly, the Assistance League of the Columbia Pacific — who have organized the event every October since 2008 — gets to help clothe hundreds of less-fortunate schoolchildren throughout Clatsop County.
“This year’s theme is ‘Houses in Clatsop Plains and Warrenton,’ which we’ve never done before,” said Mary Davies, the League member in charge of the project and the dozens of volunteers — from the “heads of home” that serve as guides to the local florists providing special arrangements at each location — who make it happen.
With an eye to a fresh experience, Davies and her team have not only found a new clutch of homes to visit, but — with the exception of the Fort George Brewery and Public House — all of the restaurants involved are participating for the first time.
“We like to mix things up,” said Sally LaCoste, president of the local charter of the Assistance League.
This year’s houses are:
• Warren home: Built in 1885 for the Oregon pioneer Daniel Knight Warren (Warrenton’s namsake), this restored Queen Anne Victorian currently sits on two acres surrounded by sculptured gardens with a view across Youngs Bay toward the Columbia River. The home features five bedrooms and three baths with numerous built-ins and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.
• Zunkel home: Originally built as a “starter home” in 1988, this lakefront house has been expanded into a 3,500-square-foot, five-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath home, with custom tile, granite and woodwork throughout, a two-story stone fireplace, complete mother-in-law suite, ample outdoor living space with fireplace, lakefront boardwalk and dock.
• Kirby home: Designed and constructed in the American Craftsman style popularized in the 1860s, this home features 4,800 square feet of living space, four bedrooms, three-and-a-half baths, and two expansive living rooms, one of which includes a completely restored traditional parlor-style Steinway grand piano from the turn of the 20th century.
• Bacon home: Built in 1966 in the American Craftsman style, this 3,000-square-foot home stands overlooking Smith Lake and is perhaps best known for its Asian-influenced landscaping and as a destination for local garden tours for more than a decade.
• Brown home: Completed in 2008, this Craftsman-style house sits on ten acres at the end of Perkins Lane in the Clatsop Plains area and boasts an expansive garden, a large chicken coop and a meticulously detailed interior, painstakingly restored to its original state following a 2012 house fire.
• The Chateau at Camp Rilea: Built between 1935 and 1937, the Chateau is known as “The Jewel in the Crown” of Camp Rilea. Situated on a quiet site at the end of Sunset Lake, it is constructed of unpainted exterior logs, without dormers, and windows trimmed in white. With accommodations for 10, it has been traditionally occupied by the camp’s commanding officer while in camp.
This last location qualifies as something of a coup. “Most people never get a chance to see the Chateau,” Davies said. “Unless you’re in the military, of course. So that’s pretty exciting.”
For the kids
All of this is in the service of a great cause.
“Operation School Bell is the main program of the Assistance League chapters throughout the nation,” LaCoste said. With the support of local clothiers, the program helps provide school clothes — from coats and shoes to socks and underwear — to students of all ages in five school districts: Jewell, Knappa, Astoria, Warrenton and Seaside.
From assisting a relatively modest 70 kids its first year, the program has grown tremendously.
“Last school year, we clothed 692 kids, the most we’ve ever done,” LaCoste said. Operation School Bell’s success has led to further programs from the local League: Cinderella’s Closet lends out prom and homecoming dresses free of charge; the School Participation Program helps cover the cost of fees and equipment for extracurricular activities for middle and high school students in need; and the Duffel Bag Program provides clothing and personal items to children entering foster care.
But Operation School Bell remains the Assistance League’s cornerstone, and Mary Davies anticipates this year’s Home & Chef Tour will be their most successful yet.
“It’s a really fun way to spend the day,” she said, “and you’ll be able to help kids throughout the county feel good about themselves and fit in with the rest of the kids. It’s a wonderful thing.”